Guest Post

Further Update from WHUISA

Guest Post by Paul Christmas (Joint Chairman of WHUISA)

WHUISA

ACCESSIBILITY

WHUISA agreed there needs to be a disability association and we are willing to help by having one as part of WHUISA. I have contacted one of the disability reps at the meeting and await a response. Two disabled members of WHUISA have contacted me and we are looking to set something up.

A number of issues came up from the disabled reps with a request for West Ham to have their own congregating place specifically set up for people with disabilities. A room that would be dry, warm and adapted for the variety of disabilities people have. Man U have such a place and is excellent. However where could / would West Ham house such a place?

Disabled changing rooms are available but people I have spoken to since were not aware of their existence.

BUSINESSES IN WEST HAMLEGACY

The club have no official responsibility in helping such businesses. By the time the residential complex is built on the old ground many businesses in the area will have folded. Delaware North (DN) is the company responsible for authorising the food / drink outlets around the Stadium. It seems the club have recognised that they can help in some way by suggesting they will help to explain the process (an internet pack was mentioned) and give direct contact to DN.

Any business that was at Upton Park that wants to have a presence at the new place should contact Tara Warren (TW) at the club and request details / help. WHUISA are happy to help in any way they can.

HAMMERS SUPPORTERS CLUB (HSC)

As part of a joint committee of HSC members and committee members of HSC discussions have occurred between us and Newham Council while a place has been sourced for the HSC to move to as a satellite. The HSC is fully aware of this but the executive committee has not responded. Further the chair person has had meetings with Tara Warren unbeknown to other members of the HSC committee and the joint committee. This explained Karren Brady’s (KB) comment in the minutes.

The club is the only entity that can save the HSC. The HSC will close soon and will not make the end of the season. I made this point specifically.

A meeting between West Ham, the HSC and Newham Council is scheduled for 8/2 and I wish the HSC all the very best.

TOILETS

The point was made that the toilets (pods) which had been built since those for the Olympics were outside had not been designed very well. For male toilets the one way in and the same way out system made for tedious queues in the BML before, at half time and after the match. Further there are huge numbers of people coming from all parts of the ground to use toilets and massive bottlenecks develop. This is fine for an event like the Olympics when people can go when they want but at a football match there is a massive demand at half and full time. There are also a large number of female toilets. Whilst this is commendable the majority of people in the BML are male and a request was made to see if changes could be made to toilet design as well as possible increase in male toilets. For men there are only a small number of actual ‘sit down’ toilets in the ‘pods’ and this needs looking at too.

SECURITY

Security at the stadium is a big concern to our members. LS185 re-iterated their policy but in the light of current security / terrorist threats I was not convinced and they need to up their game.

Too many young people in important areas of the ground with little experience of big crowds.

The feedback promised by Peter Smith will be crucial. However I would not expect to wait until May 24th for this information to be disseminated.

Many people had problems getting from one place to another in the ground so while KB’s offer to assist a SAB member to get to where they want was kind Adrian Bradshaw did wonder whether this assistance would be offered to the other 50 odd thousand people in the ground. The answer was that it could not for obvious reasons. However why should someone in the SAB be afforded a privilege not available to others?

TURNSTILE CONGESTION

The club have acted immediately on my request to highlight getting to the match early or you will miss the KO. Such a message was the first thing read on the Man City preview e-mail. This should be on all further preview e-mails.

I further requested separate queues be considered to speed up the process. I proposed a queue for those with bags, one for people with no bags and one for families. This was included in the action plan.

ROUTE TO / FROM STADIUM / WESTFIELD SHOPPING CENTRE

The route changes as there are ongoing building works which will not be finished for a number of years. This is something we have to suffer. Kevin Radley (KR) has looked in to the different number of routes being used out of the stadium and he has identified 5. He said people were fed up with having the routes changed. He provided a route plan to WHUISA and offered to help the club in this issue.

Further Westfield have a capacity in the shopping centre of 35,000 at any one time. They are keep an eye on this but with up to 57,000 coming into the area not shopping related but passing through they are mindful to keep us away as an increase in this capacity may see shoppers not allowed in due to safety reasons.

This situation is compounded if there ever was an evacuation of Westfield. The fire drills see the crowds from Westfield come out towards the stadium so fans are being diverted away in case this happens.
This begs a number questions. Further will West Ham ever play on a Boxing Day at home while the sales are on ? We have not played a home Boxing Day fixture since Arsenal in 2013. We are due one…..

Westfield are in control of their premises and while West Ham can request they open blocked routes such as those by The Cow Westfield are not obliged to accede. Westfield will may respond to a number of lobby / pressure groups but it seems sheer weight of numbers will see us stuck with the current mess of an egress we have as fans. It is tedious.

TRANSPORT LINKS

The actual links are good – it is the number of people using these links which is causing issues. SAB members complained of being herded to stations like cattle, delayed, packed like sardines on trains, noted continual disruption on Greater Anglia services and poor crowd control at Stratford International (SI).
Such things are actually out of the clubs control due however we were promised world class travel links and the ongoing situation, which does not affect all fans, has upset a significant number it does affect.

The anomaly as to who is responsible outside this station came up as people are stopped from getting to trains at this station to allow people at Stratford station to get on. This causes queues outside SI as there is limited pavement space so people are spilling onto the road. There are no barriers here and the roads are controlled by Newham council. What misfortune will it take for someone to do something ?
Direct links between fans and the 3rd parties / travel companies should be set up. WHUISA have offered to be a conduit.

It seems the travel situation is not world class… yet.

WEST HAM ‘LOOK AND FEEL’

KB confirmed the club will have to deliver a clean stadium for this summer’s World Athletics Championships. This means ALL West Ham signage in, on and around the stadium will be removed at the end of this season. Such changes confirm that we are just tenants in a building that will never be our home as the Boleyn Ground was. The club are hopeful that the West Ham sign on top of the roof will stay.

STEWARDING

Stewarding produced the highest level of responses from our members. A number of individual concerns were highlighted by SAB members and I made as many points as I could. I highlighted the distrust of fans and 3rd party stewards.

The stadium is a massive operational headache for LS185 who are still learning about how to deal with a 57,000 football crowd. They felt they were doing a good job at game by game 17 but I disagreed and wondered how long it would take for a nasty incident to occur before they were good enough.

While the layout and vastness of the stadium makes the job hard maybe the ground needs to be split into traditional separate stands to make the job easier. I made this point to LS185 at the Chelsea debrief meeting last year.

Details provided by the club on bringing back former Boleyn stewards had been raised at the bloggers / website meeting and so was not discussed at this meeting – something the SAB should be talking about.

Hard ticket checks are only employed at Blocks 112/113/114 .

These are used inside the ground as the stadium is open internally. Anyone from any area can go to any part of the ground. This causes frustration as people are not able to get used to the crowd around them as it constantly changes. This will be the way it is unless internal barriers are introduced to create specific stand areas that we were used to at the Boleyn.

Interaction procedures were due to be initiated for the Man City match but video received by WHUISA which is being made available to the club suggests some have not read the procedures yet.

While the club re-iterated their stance on people informing the club it seems there is not enough feedback from the club / Stadium operators as to what they have actually done. This should be improved.

BLOCK 114

A number of unsavoury incidents from this area such as coin throwing led to the Safety Liaison Authority (SLA) closing this block and people were moved to block 127. This caused a multitude of issues for many innocent fans however the club said that 97 fans from this block have been banned. A return to block 114 must be authorised by the SLA. Hard ticket checks are in force in this area to stop rouge fans infiltrating the area from other parts of the stadium and coin throwing seems to have stopped.

The club want fans to return to their original seats and a significant number of fans in block 127 still wish to be relocated to block 114. Sadly this is too late for one of our fans and WHUISA founding members – Alan Walker who sadly passed away at the end of January. He was deeply upset at being moved away from the area and a number of his friends and spoke of his wish to watch his beloved West Ham from where he worked so hard to be during the migration process. Our hope and lasting legacy to Alan must be that fans are moved back to this area as soon as possible, they are allowed to enjoy the match in the way they have done for years (singing / shouting / chanting / banter / dancing) and the club ensures coin throwers are persona non grata.

PERSISTENT STANDING

It was revealed that the move to a new stadium saw a decision made where there would be a drive to ensure people sat down at the match. I noted that this drive was unique to West Ham fans and unfair and reminded everyone to watch Match of the Day where you would clearly see fans standing at all Premier League grounds. This drive to make people sit in some areas of the lower tiers was counter productive.

This showed the problem in the migration process where the system failed and families / other people used to sitting at the BG became mixed with fans who had never sat down at all at the BG. This caused in fighting between West Ham fans.

It is noted the club, to their credit, have recognised this problem and have moved 450 people.

I did not receive a direct answer from Nicola Keye (NK) about whether the club would open an area specifically for families despite asking 3 times. In the small print and in the first instance a season ticket holder has the right to renew their seat. Only once this has occurred can a decision be made about relocation issues. In other words the club cannot force people to move from their seat to create a family area.

On reflection post meeting a solution to this is could be to stipulate an area that is to be a family area – say 4 /5 blocks of the Bobby Moore Upper and then those in this area currently should get the first opportunity to move to another area should they not wish to be in the family area. Over a short period of time the club could have an official area for families.

SUPPORTERS SERVICES

The club acknowledged issues / backlog in dealing with customer complaints and say they have improved this. However the stigma still remains that the club gets information from fans and fails to respond in a large number of cases. I know as I am still waiting for a response to a letter I sent to the chairmen of all people. WHUISA are happy to act as a conduit for fans should they wish to choose them.

KB left for another meeting at 8pm but the SAB continued to meet for about another 40 minutes. The bloggers / website meeting was discussed and this has been addressed in my earlier post.

Paul Christmas

Joint Chair of WHUISA


Guest Post

An update from WHUISA

Guest Post by Paul Christmas (Joint Chairman of WHUISA)

WHUISA

I attended the West Ham Supporter Advisory Board meeting on 24th January at the London Stadium and the attendees were as listed on the minutes at https://www.whufc.com/sites/default/files/inline-files/SAB%20meeting%20minutes%20270117.pdf

Over two hundred people from our six hundred strong membership took the time to send their points of view. The documents filled two A4 files and I took every response into the meeting.

On behalf of the members I made a number of your points during the meeting with examples to hand on each topic which are listed in the minutes. I was able to speak on to your behalf but had a huge amount of information.

Twice I was asked to hand over all documents from the membership which I did not do. I was not going to provide the club with your personal data. Further the consensus of opinion amongst our members was that many people had previously written to the club and had not received a response at all. I include myself in this as I sent a registered post letter to the chairmen in late December which has not been acknowledged. On this basis what is there to say there would be no response to our evidence? I was not prepared to pass everything to the club without a check and balance being made on your behalf.

This is supported by the club admitting they had problems handling correspondence from fans from the start of the season and had now changed their system. However this should not have happened in the first place and the club should have been ready from day 1 in the new stadium to cope with queries. That damage has now been done and is one of the reasons why WHUISA was formed in order to take fan’s complaints direct to the club and get answers relayed back to them without them being lost or left unanswered. West Ham is one of the few major clubs in the country that did not have an official supporters association or Trust. We now have one.

WHUISA are pro-fan and not anti-board. We want to help the club with the issues raised but with the large volume of paperwork and the ‘devil being in the detail’ I was not able to get all points across in the meeting. To this end I have requested a meeting with the club to present our evidence in a formal manner which can be fed back to you byWHUISA and the club working together in an agreed and appropriate way. I await their response.

This was my first SAB meeting and I was left wondering for the future of the SAB. It is well known that a week earlier there was a meeting between the club and West Ham oriented websites / bloggers and internet TV. If, as we were told the SAB ‘is the forum for going forward’ why is there ongoing direct contact between the club and this group? Surely they should be part of the SAB? By being separate and having first chance to meet the club surely this undermines the credibility of the SAB and what it is meant to stand for.

Further a meeting between the club and this group has been earmarked for April a full month before the SAB are due to meet again at the end of May. I questioned this and requested that the SAB meet monthly to get a firm grip on the issues but this was not forthcoming. It was stated at the meeting the intention would be to merge the 2 groups but with separate meetings already planned it seems this will not happen until next season which seems too late.

Further due to firmly established nature of the association WHUISA politely requested but were not afforded a 2nd representative at this SAB meeting. Taking an active part in the meeting and taking notes is not easy for 1 person at all. This will be why there is a delay in getting this to you as I work full time and have other responsibilities. However as can be seen from the minutes Bondholders had three representatives while Club London, East Upper, East Lower and Bobby Moore Upper each had 2. Disability supporters were rightly represented by two people due to the differing nature of disability. It is understood some groups attending the website meeting in the previous week also had wto or more representatives.

The SAB is the club’s primary form of direct correspondence with its fans but I was unsure on behalf of whom a number of SAB members spoke. The group has come from previous meetings and being hand-picked. During the meeting the gentleman representing the BML made a point about the outer coverings around the pitch which was very commendable. However as a season ticket holder in the BML I, and indeed anyone in the group of 40 who I go to the matches with, did not know in advance he was representing the BML. There had not been any chance prior to the meeting for us to meet / put forward any views or opinions we may have had.

I shall state very clearly now that I am not singling this man out at all for any criticism and he was not at any fault in any way. He has been put in this situation by the club.This also applies to other members of the SAB, for whom I have the utmost respect for, at the meeting. For the majority at such a high profile meeting it was unclear exactly on whose behalf and under what mandate they speaking for during the meeting. I, on the other hand, have 600 people I represent and had sought their opinion and received over 200 replies. I thought that the new SAB would be about people speaking on behalf of a significant number of fellow fans. To this end I can understand the 2 SAB members speaking on behalf of fellow disabled people and I think it is disgraceful that there is not an official disability supporters association. I encouraged all other SAB members to join WHUISA so the fan’s voice could be heard in the correct and proper way through official channels with openness and transparency. WHUISA have asked for more people to come forward to represent other groups in the West Ham family and have been contacted by a disabled person while we would be happy to have the 2 reps at the meeting on board.

WHUISA has structure and integrity. We are a new association but are ready to work on the issues facing us all in the new stadium through open, honest and productive channels of communication with West Ham United Football Club as well as to foster a relationship of accountability.

WHUISA shall update you when we have further news but in the meantime your feedback on the above issues is most welcome.

Paul Christmas

Joint Chair
WHUISA.


Talking Point

Payet deal done as he flies to France for a medical

TRANSFER UPDATE: The club have just confirmed the transfer.


Sky Sports are claiming Dimitri Payet is flying to France today to complete a medical saying that a deal has been done with Marseille for a £25m transfer fee.

Just after 11am on Sunday Sky reported: “West Ham have agreed a deal to sell Dimitri Payet to Marseille for £25m, according to Sky sources. Payet is currently travelling to France for a medical to complete the transfer to the Ligue 1 club. The fee for the player is understood to be £25m and the acceptance of the deal brings to an end a long-running and occasionally controversial transfer saga”

Marseille have requested the transfer fee is paid over three years which the same terms we agreed with them when buying Payet for £10.7m in 2015. It is thought we still owe in the region of £5m for Payet and this would be offset against the transfer fee.

Reports yesterday suggested the Hammers rejected a £24m bid plus £2m of potential add-ons so it is hoped that the £25m fee being reported is the transfer fee involved and that add-ons may push the deal closer to the £28m mark. One potential add-on is thought to be an sell on clause which would see West Ham receive the first £7m of a transfer fee if he was sold on again.

UPDATE ClaretandHugh sources claim that Marseille have agreed add-ons of £3 million and a 25 per cent sell on clause should Payet be moved on. The top source said: “The deal is virtually done – the manager and players want him out and there is a big 25 per cent sell on fee involved as well as other extras.”

Well connected Darren Lewis from the Daily Mirror claims the deal is nearer £30m with add-ons and says the club will demand the return of a £1m loyalty bonus paid late last year.


Guest Post

Independent Supporters' Association is open for business

Guest Post by Paul Christmas

I am very pleased to inform that the West Ham United Independent Supporters’ Association website is now up and running at http://www.whuisa.org
Please visit the site and join as soon as you can. At present we have over 200 members.

We’d really like to get as many people as possible involved because numbers will give us credibility. You can join until the end of next season for £3 or until the end of next season for a fiver and we’d love to see as many people on board as possible. U18s can join for free.

For those who are new to this, we want to establish a democratic, transparent, independent, non club owned voice for fans to give honest input into the way things are run. The points of view will come from you the fans to be put forward by WHUISA to the club / stadium operators / Met Police / Newham Council / whoever and we will report back to you.

The aim is to eventually create a formal channel of communication that really represents the fans but that doesn’t rely of the patronage of the Board. We had the SAB but the general consensus was that it did not do the job we hoped it would. If you depend on the club management for your position on any fans organisation you can’t be truly honest. The club will always have the option to exclude you.

We want to be positive in trying to change things to make supporting West Ham a more positive experience. We want to be inclusive and constructive but we won’t shy away from telling the difficult truth if we have to.

Until now West Ham was the only PL club that did not have a supporters association or Trust. We have met with supporters’ groups from other clubs through the FSF and they have had amazing results. We will strive to and can have a similar effect.

There’s been an interim committee set up but once we are established we’ll be looking to get many more people on board. If you want to get stuck in sooner let us know at enquiries@whuisa.org.

The more we have, the stronger our voice will be.

Here’s to a happier new year both on and off the pitch !!!

Always West Ham United.

Paul Christmas
Joint Chair
WHUISA

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with the Swans

Hope you are having a good Christmas day. The first team have been training today at Rush Green in their preparation for their 230 mile journey to Wales to face Swansea on Boxing day. It is second year running that the loyal West Ham away army have had to make a long journey the day after Christmas. Last year it was Villa Park to play the doomed Aston Villa. That ended in a 1-1 draw through the help of Andre’s brother Jordon who picked up man of the match and earned Villa a point through his penalty.

Just before Christmas I spoke to Swansea fan Steven Carroll from SOS Fanzine to ask him some questions

1) What are your expectations for Swansea this season? Will you avoid relegation?
After finishing 12th last season and a very poor summer which included selling Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams and uninspiring signings I was expecting a struggle. We’ve performed worse than I thought so far and if I was a gambling man I’d say we are going down, a new manager and key signings in January are needed to save the season.

2) Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Hull are likely to drop, they also had a bad summer in terms of signings and look a poor side while Sunderland could well come unstuck this time, surely they can’t keep pulling a rabbit out of the hat in April and May. As for the other place I think it’ll be us unfortunately, we are a poor side, especially at the back

For the title I said Man City at the start but you have to say Chelsea are favourites now. They’re playing brilliantly and defensively are a class above the rest.

3) How do you rate West Ham’s manager Slaven Bilic as a manager?
I like Bilic, I remember being impressed by him when he was Croatia manager and he did an excellent job last season. This season has been tougher so I’m sure he’s made mistakes but it’ll probably make him a better manager.

4) What league position can West Ham realistically achieve this season?
It’s so tight in mid table that top half is still in reach. If your top players stay fit and on form it could be in reach but at the moment I’d probably say around 12th looks more likely.

*5) If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why? Winston Reid because we are shocking at centre half and he would make the biggest difference. The other one would be Antonio as we’re poor out wide and he chips in with a few goals which is always handy.

6) Which Swans player will be key to your hopes this season?*
Gylfi Sigurdsson without a doubt. He’s our best player by a mile, the only player in the squad who can whip a good ball into the box. At Set pieces he’s second to none and chips in with goals. We’d be dead and buried without him.

7) What is Swansea’s achilles heel?
Where will they need to improve on the second half of the season? Defensively we’ve let in 37 in 17 games. Carry on like that and we’re doomed. Bob Bradley has tried numerous partnerships and none have worked. We need a commanding centre halfs and two new full backs ideally. Can’t see it happening though.

8) What is your view of Andre Ayew? Was it a good move for West Ham? Will he come good?
Ayew was great for us, scored12 in a poor side last year. Only issue is where is his best position. We played him mainly wide right but he doesn’t offer much width, up front he was decent but he wasn’t much of a presence there, he didn’t do much in behind a striker either so it’s a tricky one. I think it’s a good signing if you can find out his best position, he’s got a good left foot on him and is great in the air for someone if his height.

9) How do you expect Swansea to setup against West Ham on Monday/ Team/formation prediction?
Probably 4-2-3-1 but Bradley does tinker so can never be certain. It’ll probably be Fabianski, Rangel, Amat, mawson, Taylor, Britton, Fulton, Barrow, Sigurdsson, Routledge, Llorente.

*10) What is your score Prediction for Monday? *
I can see an away win 2-1. We never do well against Andy Carroll and with how bad we are at the back right now he will batter us if he gets decent service, hope I’m wrong as we badly need a win!

My Thanks to Steven for his answers and his prediction. You can find him on twitter at @StevenSOS1987 or his musing at Www.sosfanzine.com

I am happy to go along with his 2-1 win for the Hammers but would accept a draw. Merry Christmas and here’s to a great 2017. Come on you Irons!

Sean @WestHamFootball

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